- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Girls and young women become addicted to drugs, tobacco and alcohol differently than males and would be better served by treatment programs that understand these sex differences, says a study released this week by a New York research group.
"Girls get hooked faster, they get hooked using lesser amounts of alcohol and drugs and cocaine, and they suffer the consequences faster and more severely," said Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
Most substance-abuse prevention programs have been developed "without regard for gender, but often with males in mind," Mr. Califano said. "We now know that girls are different than boys let's recognize it and let's help them."
Columba Bush, wife of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, attended a Capitol Hill event on Tuesday to release CASA's three-year study on substance abuse of girls ages 8 to 22.
"If we all understand the special characteristics that lead girls to use substances, if we all realize how much more vulnerable girls are to becoming addicted and to the devastating consequences of addiction, we can save millions of girls and young women from the agony of addiction," Mrs. Bush said.
The Bushes' adult daughter, Noelle, has had a public struggle with drug addiction and is in treatment.
"It's a good study. It backs up everything we've been doing for years," said Elayne Bennett, founder of the national Best Friends program, which has steered tens of thousands of girls away from premarital sex, drugs, smoking and drinking.
The CASA study reviewed data from three national surveys and a poll of 1,220 teenage girls and 782 parents by the Survey Research Center of the University of Maryland at College Park.
It revealed the following:
Girls surpass boys in the consumption of stimulants, tranquilizers and painkillers, and use alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants and cocaine at nearly the same rates as boys.
Girls are more likely than boys to use substances to lose weight, relieve stress and alleviate depression.
Girls are more vulnerable to addictions if they reach puberty at an early age, have eating disorders, have been physically or sexually abused and/or have mothers who smoked or drank during pregnancy. In addition, drinking coffee at a young age is associated with addictions to cigarettes and alcohol.
Girls tend to be introduced to drugs by female acquaintances, relatives or boyfriends and in private places, such as homes. Boys are more likely to be initiated to drugs by strangers, male acquaintances, relatives or parents, and often in public settings, such as parks or on the street.
Girls seem to "sink into abuse more quickly." Cocaine and cigarette addictions, for instance, seem to occur faster and to be harder to escape for girls.
Girls are more susceptible to psychological problems, cocaine dependence, brain damage from Ecstasy drugs and hospitalization from misuse of pain medications.
On a positive note, girls are especially responsive to healthy family relationships and religious attendance when it comes to avoiding or escaping substance abuse.

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